Tabaski, or in Arabic, Eid al-Adha means «Festival of Sacrifice .» Colloquially, it is known here as “La fête du mouton” or the Sheep’s Holiday. And I completely understand why…as I’ll go on to explain. A little background: For Muslims, this holiday commemorates the sacrifice that Abraham was willing to make when God asked him to sacrifice his first born. As it was explained to me, every working Muslim, over the age of 18, who has the means to buy a sheep to sacrifice, should. If one can’t afford a sheep, a goat is also acceptable, or a chicken. But the most important thing is the act of sacrifice and the spilling of blood.
**warning – I’m discussing a holiday where the objective is to sacrifice sheep, so I just want to warn anyone who might be squeamish, or not appreciate reading/seeing what that entails.**
Fête du mouton is not an understatement!
Today was crazy. I woke up and went downstairs in time to greet the men who had come back from the mosque. The women were finishing breakfast, and as soon as the men arrived, they changed out of their boubous and we just got to it..
The sheep were lead out one by one outside to the side of the house. There were holes dug out in the ground where the blood was drained as the sacrifice took place. I could only witness the first two, and then I had to go inside. I tried to be as objective as I could be, but despite myself I just couldn’t watch. Of course for everyone brought up on this tradition, this is just something that happens. Also I’ve notice here that no one is squeamish about blood or animal’s being slaughtered as all the meat is brought home very fresh, so this is something that is just part of life. And even when it’s not Tabaski, people have their own sheep that they use for food. But for me, I’m still new to this whole thing, so I decided to go help inside instead! Afterward they brought all of the carcasses in to the main entry way and started removing the skin, cutting of appendages, etc. The men did this while the women started cooking. They were on separate parts of the house, and the meat would be brought over to the women after it had been properly removed from the rest of the carcass (I have no idea what terminology to use here, so bear with me, if it’s not technically correct!). The women started by cooking the liver, and the kidneys. This reminded me a lot of Korite, which was in September. Soon the kitchen area began to fill up with body parts and meat. I have never seen so much meat in my life!!! By the way, because the commandment (if I can say that) is that each working Muslim, over the age of 18, who has the means to buy a sheep to sacrifice should, that means that in my family we sacrificed 7 sheep. SEVEN SHEEP!! That is soo much meat!! My family has a freezer (this is a big luxury here) so they will freeze as much meat as they can keep here. My oldest host brother and his wife and their baby are here, so they will take some home back to Dakar when they go. And the rest is given out to family and friends who couldn’t afford a sheep.
So all of today has literally just been cooking. Everyone is working quickly to cook to the meat or prepare it so it can be given out. It has been really interesting to see each step of the process. I think we will be eating mutton for a long long time!
This holiday is a lot bigger than Korite, from what I can tell. For weeks all of the major companies have been advertising promotions or lotteries to win a sheep for Tabaski. For instance, there was an Orange (which is a cell phone provider) advertisement where if you texted “Tabaski” to #2341 (or something like that) you would be entered in a drawing to win a sheep! And the markets are all closed today and the fishermen don’t fish. So that means my host mom did all of her weekend shopping at the fish market yesterday. She brought home this big bucket of fish!
Also, the tailors have been working 24 hours a day. I think I mentioned in my Korite post how most people have a certain percentage of their clothes tailored, as it isn’t very expensive. All traditional clothing is tailored. And all holidays call for traditional clothing (I think all holidays might be religious, except for Independence Day…I’ll have to look into that). So here that means that most people want a new boubou for Tabaski. My sister, Coumba explained to me that even though Tabaski is today, Saturday, everyone is going to dress up tomorrow. Because there is so much work to do today, there won’t be any time.
A little note not related to Tabaski exactly…but my oldest host brother, Moctar and his wife, Khady (ha-dee) are here with their newborn (2 months old), Macoumba (he is named after Moctar’s father and my host father, Macoumba). This baby is sooo cute!